Three staple items for a smart-casual fall/ winter wardrobe


Alas, silly me for not tucking the belt strap through the loop... (I call it the not wearing your trousers properly style).

One of the most predominant sustainable fashion ideals is to own more for less, thus resulting in its strong emphasis on the versatility of each and every single piece of garment, accessory, and footwear.


While there are no major fallacies that are associated with this logic, a considerable amount of its advocates often fall short in assuming everyone shares the same style, if not campaign for the white T-shirt and blue denim trousers combination, due to its presumed 'timelessness'.


Needless to say, not only is classifying what can be timeless a difficult feat — say whether the top hat and tailcoat wearing average Joe of the 1920s could have expected the average Joe to be wearing leather jackets for every occasion in half a century's time — but also what could be considered as timeless varies from one person to another.


Of course, we haven't even taken into consideration the season and the part of the world the wearer is based.



Hence, the best way to interpret and practice this vision, in my humble opinion, is for the wearer to pick a style which he/ she is likely to stick with for many years to come. (How broadly the 'style' should be framed would be an interesting topic to come back to another time.)


In today's write-up, I have chosen three pieces from my own wardrobe — one sports coat, one pair of odd trousers, and one pair of shoes — as contenders of what I would personally call the staple items of a smart-casual #menswear wardrobe.


Hopefully, this could benefit the literature by broadening its scope. Enjoy.



No mysteries and surprises. As you could have guessed already, the three pieces are a brown houndstooth jacket, a pair of olive-grey trousers, and a pair of chestnut brown grain leather Norwegian bluchers.


Each of these pieces could be worn together, as illustrated in the pictures above and below, or with many other versatile pieces, allowing for limitless combinations.


In the following, I will be discussing each piece one by one on why they could be considered as staple items, starting with the sports coat.



The brown houndstooth SC


I haven't ventured into the world of patterns for suiting or jacketing (not including pinstripes and chalk-stripes) until quite recently. For a long period of time, I found it to add more complications to my wardrobe than required.


Some ties, shirts, or scarves wouldn't pair well with the piece since they have patterns of a similar scale. And for some jackets that have multiple colors throughout the pattern (think of certain tweeds), the variety of pieces that the SC could match with would be reduced as well. (There are other reasons as well, but that is for another time.)


Yet, tasteful patterns would always have their place in jacketing as they symbolize a lost language of sophistication, hardly to be seen in this day and age. Just think of Gianni Agnelli's famous beige glen-check sports coat.


Hence, after my countless revisits of vintage illustrations, mesmerizing over how the figurines are meticulously captured, not to mention how effortless yet refined they look in one of these pieces, I eventually got my head over this mentality gap.



Of course, not all patterns are equal, and some, namely the houndstooth and the glen-check, are more versatile than the others. Here, I have picked houndstooth, and a brown one with a cream base specifically, for various reasons.


Firstly, among all patterns for jacketing, houndstooth, to me, is always the most subdued pattern. It doesn't scream for attention, unlike some of the bolder glen-checks, let alone some rather fashion-forward windowpanes. (Again, this is just my personal preference.)


It should also be added that the size of the patterns plays a role here. Compared to most other patterns which their appearance could differ significantly based on the scale, houndstooth pieces seem to all look the same. What differs them from one another, really, is the level of contrast between the base and the 'tooth' itself.


Yet, this 'flaw' may very well be houndstooth's greatest strength — you can easily pair the sports coat with a great variety of shirts and accessories, without clashing in terms of the scale of patterns. (Think of your solid grenadine or stripe ties.)



Secondly, in terms of color, chocolate brown, to me, is the best of both worlds between formal and relaxed attire. It shares the sobriety found in navy and grey when it comes to city attire, yet retains the pallette of the country earth tones.


The base color matters as well. I find colors along the lines of orange and red tends to add some more country-looking appearance than I personally prefer. Neutral colors, to me, look neater.


Hence, occasion-wise, you can easily find yourself wearing this piece with a pair of charcoal flannel trousers to certain offices, or for Zoom meetings. Meanwhile, during the weekend, you can also pair the sports coat with more relaxed pieces, such as the grayish-olive covert trousers I am wearing in the photos or with forest green corduroy trousers.


And you wouldn't look out of place for both occasions.


The houndstooth jacket on a mannequin, as displayed by Drop93. (Photography by Drop93)

Oh, and about the jacket itself. I acquired this The Armoury by Ring Jacket new-old-stock sports coat through Drop93. While it has a different silhouette than what I would usually wear, I do think the cut works quite well with patterns like such.


As for the cloth, the SC is made up of Loro Piana's Pecora Nera, a breed of dark-colored Merino sheep that produces fibers that are renowned for their softness, durability, and lightness.


For that reason, it is ideal for wearing on its own for the transitional season and could be layered for the colder months. Anyhow, it's too early for me to recommend the cloth personally, but I am sure I will be talking more about it at a later time.



The olive-grey covert cloth trousers


Normally speaking, your top 3 winter odd trousers would be charcoal, mid-grey, and light grey flannels. But since I have already made a post on my fondness for grey flannels, I'll be cheating if I were to talk about them again in here.


Instead, my recommendation for the season would be a pair of grayish-olive trousers, made by The Anthology using a deadstock Smith Woollens covert cloth, woven in the 90s.


Why is that, you may ask? Well, if flannel is the king or queen of winter odd trousers, then covert isn't far from it thanks to its durability and practicality. In fact, if you examine the picture above closely, you could see the distance between each diagonal line is rather small, meaning the fabric is quite tightly woven.


While there might be some generalization to this rule, usually the more densely woven the fabric is, the more hard-wearing and wind-repellent (and sometimes water-repellent) it would be. Needless to say, these are certainly some nice features to have if your country of residence rains or snows a lot in the colder months.


Nonetheless, do pay attention to the weight of the cloth. This vintage cloth, for example, is about 12-13oz, while the majority covert cloth designed for suitings or trousers is around 14-15oz, if not heavier. Again, that depends on the climate of the place you live.


(Photography by Buzz Tang of The Anthology)

As for the color, even though covert cloths don't usually come in a great selection of colors — with brown, fawn, olive being the predominant ones, and some other colors as undertones — there are still some legitimate reasons why this grayish-olive shade would be suitable for F/W odd trousers.


As the season transitions away from summer, men tend to wear more muted colors for their jackets. Be it a navy cashmere jacket or the purple Tengri-yak jacket showcased above, most sports coats would require the trousers to come in a shade that is no less than its sobriety to remain as a statement piece.


In this case, the grayish undertone of this piece allows the olive to be more muted and neutral, making it ideal to pair with most sport coats. And this is what makes the trousers a staple item.



The chestnut brown grain Norweigan bluchers


Funny enough, a comparison that could be drawn between these Bluchers and the jacket is that I wouldn't like both pieces several years back.


I have always found open-lacing shoes with fine wool worsted suits to be a mismatch, with the former representing the country attire and the latter being the epitome of city attire. After seeing how poorly worn they were by many, I had avoided them during my younger years.


But as I welcome more sports jackets and odd trousers (and potentially more casual suits) in my wardrobe, I found myself missing the right pair of shoes. The logic goes like this — oxfords and monk straps are too formal for the separates look, while loafers can only be worn when it's not raining.


So here I am, acquiring and defending for something I once felt it was distasteful.



With that said, certain open-lacing shoe models will always look more aesthetically pleasing, and the five-eyelets Norwegian bluchers, to me, are one of those. One way to look at this is to evaluate how coherent the shoes are from the tip to the heel.

Take a closer look at the picture above and focus on the vamp. You could immediately spot how the apron (the U-shape seams on the vamp) completes an otherwise unfinished look by extending the lines from the quarters (the leather panels containing the eyelets) around the upper.


While this tiny detail may seem insignificant to some (though it was placed there to help with the bluchers' water-resistant capabilities, historically speaking), it helps sculpting the shoes' proportion. Of course, the list of implications goes on and on.



Now, it goes without saying that the choice of leather is crucial is determining how versatile a piece could be.


One advantage I found grain leather to have over types of leather is its ability to hide minor stains. Take the pair I am showcasing here — while not necessarily reflected in the images, some marks have already built up through the numerous occasions of me wearing them in the rain.


In essence, however, because the grain is arguably what draws more attention, these bluchers ended up to be quite forgiving when it comes to stain.



These shoes, by the way, are from TLB Mallorca, under their Artista collection to be precise. I have long heard great stories about the collection, regarding the quality of the craftsmanship, so this made the perfect opportunity to try out the Spanish brand.


Then again, it would be too early for me to comment on the value of their product and discussions surrounding it. Another conversation for another write-up it is.


Anyhow, I hope you've enjoyed this article. Let me know if you have any follow-up questions. Take care, and bye for now.


Photography: as stated, otherwise own

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